Friday, March 14, 2014

Blast of Tempest (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Blast of Tempest is a 24-episode series that mixes fantasy, mystery, and drama.

There are a few spoilers in this post, but I avoided spoiling any of the really major stuff. 

Synopsis:

After his stepsister Aika's death, Mahiro becomes consumed with a need to find and kill her murderer. After Mahiro leaves on his quest, his friend Yoshino tries to continue on as though little has changed.

Then one day Mahiro comes back, saying that he has made an agreement with a magic-user named Hakaze. If he helps her make it back to her people and stop the awakening of the Tree of Exodus, she vows to find Aika's killer, even if that person is a member of her own clan. Mahiro and Yoshino travel together, doing their best to avoid the traitors among Hakaze's clan and the deadly, civilization-destroying iron sickness brought on by the fruits of the Tree of Exodus.

Review:

I feel like I should have loved this show. Unfortunately, I didn't. I liked it well enough, and the second half of the series was particularly good, but for some reason I didn't connect with it enough to love it.

I think a big part of the problem was the characters. Aika, Mahiro, and Yoshino had a tendency to react to things oddly, as though their emotions were muted. Some of this made more sense by the end, but, by that point, any chance of me emotionally connecting with the characters had already been lost.

Aika, in particular, disturbed me, and I spent much of the show expecting her to be revealed as a surprise villain. She, Mahiro, and Yoshino had complicated relationships. Mahiro was Aika's stepbrother, but he also had unrequited feelings for her that he was unable to acknowledge until after her death. And, unbeknownst to Mahiro, Aika and Yoshino were dating. At times, Aika and Yoshino were a cute, sweet couple. However, I kept getting the feeling that there was something calculated about the way Aika dealt with Mahiro and Yoshino. The scene of her murder looked too pretty and perfect to be real, and I wondered “what if it wasn't?” What if Aika purposefully staged her own death after secretly dating Yoshino and baiting Mahiro, with the intention of eventually maneuvering them to kill each other?

Although they didn't disturb me the way Aika did, I wasn't able to connect with Mahiro and Yoshino either. Mahiro was an odd character. On the surface, he was a stereotypical wild guy, the sort to violently and recklessly throw himself at his goals. However, he wasn't ruled by rage – logic could stop him in his tracks. While that made him smarter and potentially deadlier than many of the characters of the type I initially assumed him to be, it also made him seem emotionally distant.

The flashbacks of Yoshino and Aika together had moments that made me think they probably did love each other. However, Yoshino was a weird mixture of calculating and easy-going. I'm convinced that Aika was the one who asked him out, rather than the other way around, because I can't imagine him taking the initiative. He only became Mahiro's friend because he was forced to, but, at the same time, he was brilliant enough that he probably could have wriggled out of the relationship if he had really wanted to. Until he finally broke down, late in the series, I had trouble figuring him out.

The general talky-ness of the series also made it hard for me to truly love it. The action scenes were wonderful, and the enormous battle at the end had me at the edge of my seat, but, in between those moments, the characters spent a lot of time standing around talking or thinking. Those scenes weren't necessarily boring, but I was relieved when, in the second half of the series, a character was introduced who was surprisingly good at cutting through all the crap.

There really was a lot to like about this series: the fantastic battles, the suspenseful moments, the mystery of Aika's death, and even a few out-of-the-ordinary elements. For example, although Mahiro and Yoshino played a big part in the show, neither of them turned out to be the super-powered hero who saved the world – that role was reserved for someone else. I hadn't expected that, and I kind of liked it. I was also surprised at how often Shakespeare was referenced in this series. Unfortunately, it's been ages since I last read Hamlet or The Tempest – I might have enjoyed that aspect of the show more if I had remembered more about those plays.

All in all, I don't regret that I watched this, but it's not going on my “to buy” list.

I did my best with the list below, but it was hard to come up with things that were at all like Blast of Tempest.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (anime TV series) - I own this but so far have only seen part of it. Those who'd like another series in which a very smart character works to mentally outmaneuver others, in between (and sometimes during) battles, might want to try this. Warning: I think this might be one of those series where it doesn't pay to get too attached to the characters.
  • Death Note (manga) story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata; Death Note (anime TV series) - Another series with intellectual maneuvering. The main character, Light, comes into possession of something called a Death Note - if you write a person's name in a Death Note, that person will die. Light begins using the Death Note to kill criminals the law can't touch. His activities are eventually opposed by a brilliant young man known as L.
  • Fate/Zero (anime TV series) - I have so far only seen the first episode - it was gorgeous, but I could practically feel the series mythology weighing me down. Plus, fans of this series are kind of rabid, and they scared me. I need to give it another shot sometime. Anyway, I added it to this list because, like Blast of Tempest, it has various opposing magic user factions, awesome battles, and mostly takes itself pretty seriously (perhaps more so than Blast of Tempest).

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